Rugby: Top All Blacks block $465 million deal in explosive letter to New Zealand Rugby

Several top All Blacks players, including captain Sam Cane, are reportedly concerned over the sale of New Zealand Rugby’s commercial rights to US investors Silver Lake.

In a letter obtained by the NZ Herald, the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association (NZRPA) has voiced its concerns over the offer of a 15 percent stake in NZR’s commercial rights, fearing exploitation of Maori and Pasifika culture.

‘We have concluded that we will not grant approval for the restructure and sale proposed by NZR, and believe we should communicate that conclusion to you now,’ the letter reads.

‘The decision to not grant approval to the sale of a minority interest in New Zealand Rugby has been arrived at after careful consideration by the board of NZRPA.

‘All of these ends can be achieved by accessing much cheaper capital, proceeding with the creation of a separate CommercialCo, hiring and incentivising world-class talent, and engaging sports service providers directly.

‘We know many players are – and believe many other New Zealanders would be – uncomfortable with the thought that NZR was selling income-generating assets that relied, in part, upon cultural practices and understandings that they consider not for sale under any circumstances.

‘There is an inherent risk of real or perceived cultural misappropriation, given Silver Lake is an Anglo-American private equity firm.

‘The risks all arise because of the irrevocability of a sale of equity in NZR’s income-generating assets. It is clear that once a share in the assets is sold, it will never be bought back.’

The Herald reports Cane’s signature is joined by those of All Blacks teammates Aaron Smith, Sam Whitelock and Dane Coles, and Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini and Black Ferns star Selica Winiata.

Former Rugby World Cup-winning captain David Kirk and NZRPA chief executive Rob Nichol have also signed the letter on behalf of the players’ board, which must sign off on the deal, before it can take effect.

The letter was sent to NZR directors and clubs in late January, advising against the deal that would reportedly bring more than $465 million into the New Zealand game.

Twenty-six provincial unions will vote on the historic deal at next month’s NZR board meeting, but the Herald also reports that a ‘sale ratio between 10-15 percent will be agreed on Monday’.

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